(A conversation between James and Catskinner from the end of Chapter Three)
That night I woke up standing naked on the rooftop in the dark.
I had been dreaming something confusing about looking for a lost dog in a subway station, a dog that was either a gift I was giving to Alice or a gift that Alice was giving someone else that I was supposed to be watching. It was one of those dreams where even the simplest things become insanely complicated and you’re always late for something unspecified, but very important. It was a dream I didn’t mind waking from.
Catskinner had been standing at the center of the flat tar roof, my arms spread wide, my head thrown back, looking up into the night, the stars and the spaces in between the stars. I felt him become aware that I was awake, his consciousness pulling back, making room in my brain for my waking mind. I didn’t try to take my body back, instead I just stood with him, cool air on my naked flesh, my eyes full of the night.
Catskinner was experiencing the emptiness. I always felt his awareness of the spaces between objects as a kind of negative of how I perceived the universe. Coming awake into this… I can only call it worship of the vast oceans of vacuum, I could feel and understand how matter was solid only from my perspective. Catskinner saw the things I saw as material as holes in the ether, flaws in the perfection of the void.
If my lungs had been under my control I would have been breathless at the wonder of it, the hint and the promise of the night eternal, the infinite void, without sound, without light, without matter, without life, nothing to disturb the silent song that filled the universe from edge to edge, a song that I could almost hear.
the sky is dying, james.
I felt him focus on one particular star, a speck of light.
that light has gone out. your vision lags behind the reality, where you see light there is nothing save a cloud of vapor, settling in upon itself, cooling. the night has grown a little darker, a little more quiet, a little more perfect.
His awareness of the star that had gone out was like cool water on a burn, like the relief that comes from digger a splinter out from under a fingernail.
It’s peaceful here, I said, knowing how hopelessly inadequate the word was.
god created the stars as punishment for the sin of angels.
There really didn’t seem to be any way to reply to that.
sleep, james, i will return you to your bed before dawn.
Sleep? I didn’t think it likely, but it must have happened because I woke up in bed with Godiva, in our cluttered little room, when her alarm went off at a quarter to five.
For just a moment I saw it the way that Catskinner must see it, chaos and filth, so far from the sterile stillness of the void.
Then I got out of bed.